Todd sat on the bridal side of the ceremony. It was something he had never done before, as custom seems to be sitting in the section behind whom you are closest. However, he had seen high school friends of Paul on this side. So, they took the seats they spotted. The three friends turned in their chairs from facing forward, to watch the bridal party begin walking down the aisle. Paul was the first to make his way through the bright sunshine. With his mother at his side, he guided her into her front row seat. Paul, then grabbed a tray full of small shot glasses, and took his place at the conclusion of the aisle. It was something Todd had never seen before, but struck him as a cool idea. He anticipated each bridesmaid and groomsmen would enjoy a shot following their journey down the aisle. As the first pair of the wedding party made their way to the front, they stopped momentarily, picking up a shot glass from the tray. They took a drink and returned the small glass.
Watching the first pair of the wedding party make their way toward the front left Todd with warmth beyond that from the evening sun. The beginning of weddings often providing a surge of peace and happiness, this was no different. He smiled to himself over the tray of shot glasses in Paul’s hands. As Todd thought to himself, it would be virtually impossible for himself to make that work. The magnitude of the situation would probably have him too shaky, unable to balance any sort of platter. But, Paul had it balanced, awaiting each person walking toward him. His buddy had to be a little nervous, Todd thought to himself, but it didn’t appear overly evident. He watched Paul smile, anticipating those close to him approaching. What Todd guessed was Tequila seemed to go down smoothly. Each pair separated after the drink, walking toward their rehearsed position. They stood in a row, either to the side of the bride or groom. Showing support for a close friend, embarking on this new journey. Positioned to face back toward the reception hall in the distance and their origination point. They peered down the beautiful grass aisle way, between rows of sparkling white chairs. Now, filled with the people who loved the couple, awaiting the bride’s arrival. We all stood and turned to look in the same direction. The music stopped, then began again. Paul’s fiancée, wearing a white dress, began her walk toward him, and their life together.
Todd rotated on his feet, as Maria and her father made their way toward Paul. Once arrived, Paul shook hands with his future father-in-law, taking his daughter’s hand, guiding her safely into position, standing across from him. As the minister took leadership of the ceremony, asking us all to take our seats. Todd sat and through his sunglasses was looking directly at his buddy’s face. A face he had seen struck with all different emotions through their more than twenty-year friendship. Todd thought of himself as relatively traditional, especially when thinking about values, but sometimes traditions left him puzzled. Today was one of those times, tradition always seemed to call for guests to sit on the side of the wedding aisle behind the friend with which their friendship was closer. This was the first wedding in Todd’s memory, where he was seated in the non-tradition section. Todd sat on what would be denoted as the bride’s side of the aisle. The circumstance, however it had happened, felt uniquely cool. He would be able to watch the emotions fill the face of a close friend as the ceremony unfolded, rather than viewing the action from behind him. With Maria settling into place, hands extending to join with Paul’s, Todd watched happiness brighten the face of his buddy.
While the minister began speaking, Todd’s mind started to wonder. He was taken back a few years to a bar in Seattle. Skinny, Paul, and Todd had met up before attending a football game. Paul was living in Portland. He had been dating Maria for some time, but an important decision was upon him. It seemed like a pivotal point in their relationship. They ordered some drinks before heading toward the game and the topic was discussed. Maria was finishing up medical school in Portland, where the two had met, and was moving on to her residency. The residency could be in a couple different places, but was most likely going to take her to Texas. Paul was contemplating his options, wondering about making that kind of commitment. The three friends talked it over. The conversation revolved around moving to Texas and what he would do once he got there. It would also require leaving his family and friends, what if this didn’t work out, Paul wondered aloud. But, Todd remembered with a smile, Paul already had a bit of a plan. There would be a Texas A&M branch campus in the town. He could take the time and finish his bachelor’s degree. It felt like Paul had things pretty thought through, maybe simply wanting some friendly reassurance in that pregame bar.
The attention of Todd gradually returned to the warmth of the evening. The minister was preparing Paul and Maria for the exchanging of their vows. As Maria began to speak of her love for Paul, Todd watched his buddy’s face. Todd saw a smile of happiness he couldn’t recall in all the years of knowing him. The words coming from his bride were also met with moisture filling his eyes. Once Maria had completed her loving thoughts, Paul was given his opportunity for expression. Paul spoke of the deep ways in which he loved the woman standing in front of him. The ways Maria had challenged and inspired him to be a better man. Todd went back to that conversation in Seattle before the game. He admired Paul for leaving behind everything he knew and moving to a small Texas town. Taking on that challenge had, in part, gathered us all there for that moment. Paul was getting married today and would be completing his bachelor’s degree in less than a year. Maria would be completing her residency and becoming a doctor. They were strengthening one another to reach their dreams. It was easy to be inspired by the love and commitment these two have for each other.
When Paul had completed, the vows had been exchanged, and the gathering sat in mesmerized silence. Todd took a moment to look around him. He saw smiles of joy, some moist eyes, and an overall feeling of happiness surrounding the sun splashed evening. Returning his attention to the front, the minister began leading the couple, as they exchanged rings. With the rings solidly in place, Paul and Maria were announced, for the first time, as husband and wife. Paul followed by kissing the bride. The three friends rose together with the gathering of family and friends to applaud the couple. Paul and Maria made their way down the aisle as newlyweds. They were followed by the wedding party. Todd, Skinny, and Patricia stood, watching them walk back toward the large reception building. As the last pair of the wedding party completed the journey, one more step was requested of the guests. In what felt to Todd as another neat idea, there would be a group photo taken. Before the ceremony concluded, we were informed that we would all turn and face the back for a photo. Once the wedding party was situated just in front of the final row of chairs, with guests turned to face that direction, a photo was snapped. Todd had little difficulty turning around. The space left between the rows of chairs was relatively wide, making it easy to maneuver even with a physical disability. He stood as tall as his 5 foot 9-inch frame would allow, smiling wide to help capture the moment. Once the moment was captured, the three gathered their drinks, and began moving toward dinner. Followed by the reception and a fun night of celebration.